Two suicides by train in May and June at Palo Alto’s Gunn High had parents and students freaked out. A suicide prevention forum was held. That night, a third Gunn student walked to the railroad tracks, but his mother grabbed him, a motorist stopped to help and the boy was saved.
At about 7:45 p.m. on Thursday — at the same time members of the Palo Alto community were meeting at a teen suicide forum — the 17-year-old boy left his house upset and distraught. Worried about her son’s mental state, his mother followed him, and found him at the tracks on East Meadow Drive — the same area where Gunn High School student Sonya Raymakers, 17, stepped in front of a train Tuesday night and died.
The boy’s mother began arguing with him and a motorist saw her struggling with her son and stopped to help. At the mother’s request, the motorist called 911 and officers arrived as the boy was walking to the tracks. Dispatchers, meanwhile, notified Caltrain who stopped the train and the boy was restrained and taken to a hospital for psychiatric observation.
Comments on the San Jose Mercury News story blame schools for cutting the arts and athletics to focus on teaching reading and math basics. Others blame Gunn High’s academic stress: Getting into a top college is a priority for many students and their parents.
But Gunn High has a full slate of arts and sports programs. The second suicide victim, Raymakers, had no need to be stressed. She was weeks away from graduation and headed to New York University to study design. Palo Alto Weekly reports:
Raymakers was heavily involved in theater, working in costume-design, and for years had been involved in creative writing. She won first place in the Palo Alto Weekly’s annual short-story contest for her tale “Nighthawk” when she was in the sixth grade at JLS Middle School.
The Oracle, Gunn’s student newspaper, featured her in an article published March 16 about how she designed her own clothes and jewelry.
Her Facebook page lists nearly 370 friends.
Less has been reported about Jean-Paul Blanchard, a 16-year-old junior who stepped in front of a train in May. But his friends didn’t think he was depressed.
I live not far from Gunn. My daughter was graduated from Palo Alto High, the rival school in the district. My congregation’s building is going to be the site of Sonya’s memorial service.
Why do adolescents with minor problems — or no problems at all, as far as others can see — choose to end their lives? I don’t understand.